Language training for refugee students

“To have good contact with people and participate in society, you have to be able to speak the language”, says Serkon Heno. The 29-year-old Syrian has only been living in the Netherlands for one year, but has no problem expressing himself clearly in Dutch. This is the result of an intensive language course at Radboud University in Nijmegen that was supported by Rabobank Foundation.

“I really love languages”, Heno says. “Back in Syria I learned both English and Swedish on my own. And my first Dutch exams in the Netherlands, I also managed to pass with self-study. Then I started a university evening course once a week, but for me personally, this was not enough. That’s why I decided to go twice a week and right now, I am even attending class five days a week. It’s quite tough but it is helping me to learn the language very quickly.”

Going back to university

Heno used to be a lawyer in Syria, a profession he hopes to take up again in the Netherlands. “ I’d like to study law again as soon as possible. Hopefully I’ll be able to go straight into the third year but that really depends on my language skills.” Heno is getting support from the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF), which helps well-educated refugees to study and find an appropriate job. For the past three years, UAF has been receiving a grant from Rabobank Foundation to finance the XS2Education project that helps refugee students to improve their Dutch language skills. The project has, however, now come to an end.

More than 200 students have successfully completed tailor-made Dutch language courses, 144 of whom have now moved on to university. 350 participants are still doing their language courses and the majority are expected to successfully complete then and continue studying in the Netherlands.

‘A lot of practice’

Heno has noticed that many people face difficulties learning Dutch. “But it is possible, by practicing as much as you can, for example in shops or on the street.” He and his wife often speak Dutch together at home. “ This is also partially thanks to our son, who attends nursery school and chatters to us in Dutch!”


Rabobank Foundation

Office Address Croeselaan 18
3521 CB Utrecht
The Netherlands
Postal Address P.O. Box 17100, UC-T-0407
3500 HG Utrecht
The Netherlands
Telephone +31 (0) 30 216 0000